Shelley and Jess Farnham

When Daniel was diagnosed, a 1-day ADHD awareness course and a 6-week positive parenting course, were offered and gratefully received. But that was it. There were no ADHD support groups. There were no children’s groups, no parents’ groups. And I thought to myself it would be really nice to set up a group because there must be other parents feeling the same way as I’m feeling.

Shelley Farnham

Co-Founder of Complex Connexions

 

Episode 75 – Shelley and Jess Farnham from Complex Connexions

 

Our 75th episode is with Shelley Farnham and Jess Farnham from complex connexions

Theme: You shouldn’t judge a person by what you see.

Key Topics:

🧠 How there is not enough awareness of Neurodiversity.

🧠 How to respond when your child has been given a diagnosis of ADHD.

🧠 And we need to teach children that asking for help isn’t a weakness.

Bio

Shelley and Jess are mother and daughter- Shelley, most of her work in teaching of some kind, Jess, always interested in business and just beginning her career in that.

They decided to start Complex Connexions together because they are both passionate about spreading awareness of neurodiversity in children and the challenges it brings to families.

They know about this firsthand as Shelley’s son and Jess’ 14 year old brother was diagnosed with ADHD three years ago.

They want people to better understand the challenges these children and young people face and why they behave in certain ways but also to help parents and teachers find the best ways to support them and help them shine!

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James:

So let's go into the first question then Shelley. Teaching. Was that always something you dreamt about when you were growing up?

Shelley:

I think I probably always knew that I wanted to do something in teaching. I can remember my poor younger sister never got a look in at being the teacher. She always had to be the pupil when we were playing and I was very bossy. I'm sure she would tell you. And I used to make her do all sorts of PE lessons and maths lessons and all sorts of things. So I think probably right from the word go, there were some elements of wanting to be some kind of a teacher. I always enjoyed working with children. I think when it came to leaving school I kind of was a little bit...hmmm...I don't know what I really want to do here. But I did eventually go in to do a teaching degree, enjoyed it, thoroughly enjoyed it, went to work in teaching, enjoyed it.

But quite quickly realised that that probably wasn't, being a classroom teacher probably wasn't exactly what I wanted to continue doing for a long time. And so quite quickly, within a couple of years of starting my teaching career, I decided to open a Kumon maths centre. And in opening a Kumon Maths centre, maths was quite close to my heart. Maths teaching was quite close to my heart because I had really struggled with maths at school. And it wasn't until I actually went to university and for some reason again decided to do maths and met the university lecturer who was my maths teacher that I actually became inspired and actually believed that I could do maths. And I think that experience of having that professional person believe in me and show me that I could do well. And strangely enough I did better in that maths than I'd ever done at school.

But it really showed me that having somebody believe in you and having them help you through it and coach you through it was so important. So when I got the opportunity to start a Kumon maths centre, I took that and that was maths tuition for children, but there were a few principles that Kumon was based on that I absolutely loved and that's the reason that I wanted to be involved with it. And those principles really were meeting the student where they were, irrespective of their age, irrespective of what year group they were in. We did an assessment and we worked out what they were comfortable with at that time where they were confident at that time. So very much focused on their strengths rather than what they couldn't do and looked at what they could do.

And then it started then at that point and the absolute core principle of Kumon was building their confidence. So making them believe that they could do maths, that it was something that they could master and moving them forward from that. And I think the success that I saw in my Kumon maths centres and with my students, I think was very much, it was inspirational to see how those basic principles could really move children on. And I feel that not only were they then improving in their maths, not only was it helping them at school, but for their general self-esteem and their belief in themselves. It was really important. So, I absolutely loved doing that. Did that kind of teaching, did some tutoring and then we moved to the U.K.

So, I sold my Kumon maths centres in South Africa and when we came to the UK, which was back in 1997, I decided that I didn't want to be involved in education in any way, shape or form. I didn't want to convert my degree to become a teacher here. So I did quite a few admin jobs and things, which at the time seemed quite random and looking back, gave me loads of great experience, met new people and enjoyed it. Then had Jessica and then opened a Kumon centre in the UK. Again, just because of what I thought it could offer people. And again saw that success but quite quickly learned that I probably didn't know enough about education in the UK. I didn't know enough people. And that wasn't as successful as I hoped it would be. So sold that Kumon maths centre and then had Daniel and when Daniel was five, I decided that I did want to go back into education and did want to become involved in teaching again.

Again, considered converting my degree to become a teacher here and decided against it. So I was able to get work as a teaching assistant, which I absolutely loved because you can teach small groups, you can get involved with children on a one to one basis. And I think again, you can apply those same principles, which I felt were so important to me. You can really build a child's confidence on a one to one basis. You can meet them where they are, you can work on their strengths and you can get to know them as a person. And that's the part of teaching that I really enjoy. You know that was it. I still work as a teaching assistant and I love my job. I'm really, I feel like I'm really privileged to have the job that I have. When I was working as a teaching assistant that was when Daniel was around six or seven, when he started showing some difficulties and challenges started coming up for him at school.

James:

What sort of things? Is it in terms of behaviour, is it in terms of how he's performing at school? What sort of things give you a sense of something's not quite going to plan?

 

Shelley:

With him being a boy, with him being the youngest in his year group, there were always challenges from the very beginning when he was in nursery. Challenges, I wouldn't say particularly naughty behaviour at school. Just things like not able to sit still on the carpet, not able to join in with the group when they were doing something, having trouble focusing on different things and that kind of thing started coming up from his teachers. And he wasn't really struggling with content at school. But when he was around six or seven, in year one, year two, he started having a lot of anxiety at school. It kind of focused on a few different things specifically. And he started becoming a lot more anxious at home, and then we started noticing things that there were some difficulties with social situations and peer group relationships. So for instance, he would be very easily led and he'd get into trouble at school because somebody had told him to do something and he'd gone ahead and done it. So he would land up in the head teacher's office for hurting somebody. And when you asked him why he did it, he would say "oh it was part of the game and somebody said I should do that." And I mean, don't get me wrong. He could take responsibility for himself, but at the same time, he was easily manipulated by other people and very much wanting to fit in with the group, would do anything.

And so, we started to notice little bits and pieces like that. And as the years went on, there were a few different things where we suddenly started realising that he wasn't getting invited to parties as much as he had been and there was just that little bit of distancing between some of his peers and himself. Or he would come up with things like, I wasn't able to play football today because the boys don't want me playing football with them or something like that. So there was just that indication of some kind of difficulties with peer relationships and constantly the teachers would say, if Daniel could only focus more, if he would stop being silly on the carpet, if he would just give his full attention to his work, he could do even better. And he wasn't doing badly. He was doing absolutely fine. We were quite happy with his academic progress, but there was constantly that thread going through his whole school career. And we really didn't understand it at the point where we really thought that he was purposely not focusing and not giving his full attention to his work. And, you know, being silly. And the teachers would say he'd make silly noises on the carpet and he'd do things which would disrupt the other children.

So, we kind of told him off for those things and said to him he needed to improve on those. And that went all the way through first school and in Ponteland, at the time we had the three tier system. So he moved to middle school when he went to year five. And really that was when everything crashed down around him. And that was a really difficult time for him. I think the transition from first school to middle school, I think the different teachers for different subjects and he was at a lovely nurturing middle school, but the whole dynamics, new children coming into the school, that was a really, really difficult time for him. His academic performance dropped right down and he really started to struggle with a lot of different anxieties and different things.

So, we went through referral. We were referred to primary mental health. We saw various people. He was screened for dyslexia and he was screened for autism and then eventually he was given the diagnosis of ADHD with autistic traits when he was 11. And that was after a lot of toing and froing between different things and seeing various people. So the diagnosis was a long time in coming. But I think by the time he got the diagnosis, we had absolutely no doubt that he was going to get that diagnosis just from things we had...well, obviously we had started reading things and researching things ourselves because of the difficulties with his behaviour.

And he's never been violent at school or had particularly difficult behaviours at school. It's more the disruptive with making noises in the classroom and being inattentive, difficulty in peer relationships. But I think what often happens with children, neurodiverse children and particularly children with ADHD is they try and hold it together all day at school and then they come home and that's when you see the meltdowns and that kind of thing because they've literally struggled all day to keep it together, to keep going, to keep working and they just can't do it anymore. So we saw a lot of the behaviour at home as a result of the difficulties he was having at school.

James:

So what does a diagnosis bring for you? Is it some kind of relief? Is it something you can work with then? How would you describe that?

Shelley:

I think a diagnosis for us...it's a difficult one. You wouldn't say I wanted a diagnosis, but at the same time we did want something concrete that we could say, okay, this is what it is. And I think, you want it for yourself because you want to better understand what's going on and you want to be able to focus on something specifically. But at the same time, you almost want it selfishly in a way I suppose to explain things to other people because you do get questions from the wider family, from friends, from people that you don't know. It's just a way of explaining things. And obviously for years we had been saying, Oh, this is happening or that's happening. We hadn't been talking widely about it if I'm honest. I didn't really talk to work colleagues or anything about it. But even within the family you were saying certain things, but there wasn't a definitive answer for why it was.

And I don't think getting a diagnosis changed anything specifically. It definitely didn't change how we approached him or what we did with him. But it was just something concrete to hold on to. So it was, like you said, was a relief in some ways. It's also a strange feeling in another way because you feel like you kind of then know that that's what your child is going to have forever and they're going to have that label forever. But I've always tried very much to try and see it from a positive viewpoint rather than a negative viewpoint. And that's not diminishing the challenges or the difficulties that go along with that because I never ever want to do that. And I know there's a lot of talk in neurodiversity at the moment about neurodiverse people having super powers and having amazing gifts and talents. And absolutely I think there are certain things that they can do better because of their challenges, but I don't ever want to lose sight of the fact that it causes them a lot of difficulty as it causes the people around them.

James:

How well do you think we're set up nowadays? I mean, I often look back to say my own childhood in school and in terms of the children that I remember, you'd have the odd child who was asthmatic, one or two might have a peanut allergy but you never heard of anything in this way that if you had a naughty child, they were just a naughty child and that you accepted it and punished them and tried to get them to do what you needed them to do. But what do you think has changed, in terms of from when I was a young boy in the eighties to now and how we can actually prepare or inform others, whether it's staff, whether it's parents, siblings, other young adults, children. What do you think is different if that's not too difficult a question?

Shelley:

I think there is a lot more awareness now. And I think that more and more people are understanding that behaviour is an expression of how children are feeling. Not to say, I mean every single child that you come across has their moments where they will do something wilfully and it will be naughty behaviour as such. Every single one of us does. That's what makes us human. But I think when there's a pattern of behaviour or when there's behaviour that's causing a lot of distress to the child and others around them, I think people these days do look more closely at that. And say, hold on a minute, what's happening now? But I still feel like there's a lot of awareness lacking in that area. And I hate to hear people these days refer to a child as naughty or there's always, to me, there's always something behind that. There's always something going on in the background. And don't get me wrong. Years ago I would look at a child in a supermarket having a tantrum or whatever, and I would have feelings about the child or the parents or whatever. You know, and I was very conscious of that as a young parents, with my children. I was conscious of the fact that other people would think that.

Obviously as my awareness has grown, I feel like that things are slowly changing and professionals and the public in general are becoming more aware of things. But I think there's a danger of....autism has had a lot of exposure and a lot of media attention and that kind of thing. And I think people are becoming a lot more aware of autism and the things that it involves. But I think some of the other neurodiverse conditions, ADHD to a point, but also things like dyspraxia, dysgraphia and dyslexia has probably had quite a lot of attention as well. But there's quite a few other ones that people haven't really heard about. Even in school, I recently did a neurodiversity campaign for neurodiversity awareness week and I put dysgraphia and dyspraxia. And even some of the staff said to me, what exactly are those?

So, there's still a lot of work to do in that area. There's still a lot of awareness that needs to be raised. And the thought of a child going through the whole of their childhood into adulthood and having a lot of different issues at school and issues with their self-esteem and difficulties with their family and possibly landing up in prison or something like that. All because they had these challenges that if somebody had been aware of and if somebody had known how to help them, their life could have taken a different course. It's awful to think about. There are statistics and I don't know what the statistics are, but there are statistics about how many of the present prison population have undiagnosed ADHD and it's a huge percentage. I think it's 40 something percent. And that is really just, that is so sad that those people have had those difficulties and because nobody understood it or was able to respond to them or help them or support them in the best way their life has taken that course. So it's really sad.

 

James:

Mm. I suppose they become more isolated potentially, cut themselves off from the world. They've been tarred with a brush that suggests, well I'm a naughty child, I'm a naughty teen. I get involved in more naughty activities shall we say as I get older and that leads to ending up in prison. Whereas really there's something more we could do. And I think when we look at, there's a lot of talk at the moment as well about managing the workplace from a mental health perspective and we've got to make necessary accommodations for employees in the work environment. And that's obviously the filter through from school aged children, which I think kids are always very much, my dad always used to say as a head teacher that kids were underrated in some respects as their ability to take things on board, understand things, emotions. So if I'm imagining a kind of a filter through. Whereas if children could understand a lot better and you come at it from a workplace, eventually we reach a point where we're all a bit more aware that this child in my class, I have to accommodate in this way and I've got a colleague who I accommodate in another way to get the best out of everybody.

Michelle:

It's difficult as well as an employer. How do you make those reasonable adjustments for people who have different conditions? And almost quite often they don't know they've got them as well because they've just adapted their entire lives and it almost made do and mitigated the risks, so it's difficult as well for an employer to make sure that they're treating everybody fairly throughout the employee life cycle I suppose.

Shelley:

I think as well, if we get more of the idea in our society that different people need different things, that not all our brains work the same way because I think there's always that worry in school that some teachers say, Oh, I couldn't do that for those children because then the other children would get upset because they weren't getting that. But I think if that understanding is sort of done from a really, really young age, the children know well, you can manage fine on that, but these people need different adjustments. Like you say, I think that will just filter through our society and eventually that will become commonplace in the workplace. I can imagine these days in the workplace that if one employee was given certain accommodations, there'd be other people who'd go, well, that's not fair. Why can't I have that accommodation? Why can't I go home earlier? Or why can't I have a break every half an hour or whatever? But I think if that just filters up from the children, I think that will become much more acceptable, much more understandable. And everybody will just adapt to that and be fine with that and know that whatever accommodations they need, those will be provided as well. They might be different to what someone else needs, but everybody has some kind of need at some point.

Michelle:

I remember getting very, very cross with a certain person. Not James!

 

James:

She was looking at me when she said that!

Michelle:

James was in the room when it happened. So I overheard somebody telling some somebody that diversity and inclusion means treating everybody the same. I could have lamped her to be fair cause that's really not what it is.

Shelley:

Probably the opposite to that isn't it!

Michelle:

But yeah, so many managers have even feel that they have to go, you know, we treated that person that way. And so we have to do it for everybody else. And quite often it's not right.

Shelley:

That's the case. No, no, exactly. There is that kind of a strange thing about fairness isn't there and we've always had that notion that fairness means that we all have the same, but it's not that. And I heard a nice thing about what accommodations actually mean and they described it as levelling the playing field and I think that's quite a nice description because it doesn't mean you're doing the same for everybody, but you're levelling it as much as you can so that everybody has equal opportunity.

James:

It's a bit like...the way my brain works...is an analogy say where three people need to look over a fence, but they're all different heights. So you give one person the longer ladder. One the medium sized ladder and then the tallest person the shortest ladder. So, we're giving everybody that level playing field to be able to see over the fence, but we've given them different equipment...

Shelley:

Yes. To have the same opportunity. That's a really lovely analogy. I hadn't thought of it that way before, but that's really nice. One of the ones I used with the children when I did the neurodiversity awareness campaign was if the task was to climb a tree, a fish doesn't stand a chance with the skills that it has, but a monkey would do really well. But conversely, if the task was to swim the river, the fish has the best opportunity and the best skills for that job, but the monkey's not going to make much headway. So it was just a really simple, and it obviously comes from that Albert Einstein quote, but I think for the children and they understood that and they took that on board. Yeah, well obviously the fish is much better at swimming and the monkey's much better at climbing. So I think when you can just take those really clear things and put them in words, the children will understand, they will accept them no problem.

And I think what we try to do in school was to make them proud of what they can do and everybody has certain strengths. So to try and bring out their strengths. And then if you need help, ask people for help for the things you're not as good at. And that's something that I do feel really strongly about as well is that, you know, people need to learn to ask for help. And I'm very keen on neurodiverse people learning that they have to self advocate. And I'm conscious of the fact that at some point Daniel will become an adult and he will need to say to people, I'm finding that really tricky. Can you help me with that? And he'll have to do that for himself. You know, he's not going to have his family around to help him out with that at that point. So, that's really important.

Michelle:

That's the thing I struggle with the most actually is asking for help.

 

Shelley:

We grow up in a society where asking for help has been seen as a weakness. And in fact, I think we have to really turn that on its head and we have to teach children that that's a strength. That's a really strong thing to do. Courageous thing to do is to say, I'm struggling, can you help me with that? But understanding that at some point you'll use your strengths to help somebody else and I think that's a really good lesson that they need to learn. And me saying that, I'm the worst person asking for help as well. I'm learning as I'm going along.

 

James:

It's, yeah, it's definitely a strength I've found over the years. It's, I don't know whether it's a societal thing of if you're seen to plough on, and I don't know why Margaret Thatcher just jumped into my head that it's kind of, you know, nothing phases this person and wow, aren't they amazing? But then really the person that can say, I don't know how to do this or I'm only good at this element. It's a bit like starting a business really. I mean this is where we are going to get to. What a nice segue, James, that you can only be good at so many different things. I always remember what you mentioned earlier about children. I remember that used to be my dad's philosophy at his school where he was a head teacher. It was that kids should leave here with a sense of confidence. They know who they are. They appreciate we're all different and we all have strengths.

 

So whereas this kid might be a genius at maths, another kid might say, well, I'm not, but I'm really good at drawing. Another one can say, well I can make people laugh. I'm really creative and artistic and I want to go into drama. And that's that sense of purpose, that confidence that I think if every child had that going through to becoming an adult with a sense of their direction and what they're about, but then understanding that this is what I want to do, but I know I'm not gonna be able to get there. So I might need a coach to teach me how to paint or a vocal coach if I want to be on a stage or how do I promote myself? I don't know. I've not done marketing. I'll get someone else to help me with that and that's fine. So that leads us nicely, James, thank you...Into setting up a new venture. Brilliant.

Michelle:

Self-praise is no praise!

James:

As one of our favourite's - Grant Cardone says..."If it's true, then it ain't bragging!" So we've not talked to Jess yet, but maybe this is a good point to bring her into this. So you've reached this point, you've had a diagnosis, you've had a lot of experiences and then some little voice has been saying to you, we should maybe do more with this to present this to the public, help other parents, teachers, young people. How do you get to a point then of getting to the creation of Complex Connexions?

 

Shelley:

I think it came out of that feeling that I had when there was very little professional support available for us. We were offered when Daniel was diagnosed, we were offered a one day ADHD awareness course, which was gratefully received. We were offered a six week positive parenting course, which again was very gratefully received. But that was it. And there were no ADHD support groups. There were no children's groups, no parents' groups. I can't tell you how many charities I contacted, emailed, there was just nothing available. And I thought to myself, it would be really nice to set up a group because there must be other parents feeling the same way as I'm feeling. Isolated to a point because it's not a conversation you would have with somebody in the playground. I mean, all parents in the playground, they'll talk about their child did this or their child did that. But there's an element of that that you don't discuss with other parents of kind of neuro-typical children. And there's a lot of it that you keep to yourself within your own family. So, I thought it would be really lovely to connect to other parents, but at the time I didn't feel that I had the knowledge or the courage or whatever it takes to go out there and make contact with those parents.

And I think it came to a point where...well, in all my research, I came across a company called Impact ADHD, an American company, and they were offering Sanity School, which was a parenting course. I could do it online. And I decided that I would go ahead and do the parenting course and the more I got into Sanity School and the more I loved it, the more I could see the benefits that it was having. And by that I don't by any means, imply that it makes everything perfect and it's a magic wand to fix everything. It absolutely isn't. Our family is very much a work in progress. But it's certainly, it's just really informative, really empowering because it helps you to support your child. And that's what I was looking for. And then they offered a certification course where you could become certified to teach Sanity School and run Sanity School courses for other parents. So I decided after a lot of thought, I decided that I would go ahead and do that, see where that took me. And then at the beginning of this year, I gained that certification. And that was when I decided that I would set up Complex Connexions, but I knew that I had absolutely no strength in social media or marketing or anything like that. And that was the reason that I called on Jess.

James:

This is where you asked for help! Which is great.

Shelley:

That was where I asked for help.

 

James:

Practising what you preach!

 

Shelley:

So then I said to Jess about coming into it and actually bringing her in then kind of, although I hadn't thought of it initially, bringing her in made so much sense, because I was so interested in the impact that neurodiversity has on the whole family and that made a lot of sense because she was a sibling of a neurodiverse child and she had her own experiences. And actually we got to chat about things that we'd never chatted about before. I think it makes such a difference having a viewpoint of a 19 year old. And of somebody being a sibling of a neurodiverse person, you can get the reality of what life was like for them growing up and still is like, I mean, we all still live in the same house, so it's an ongoing saga kind of thing where she's still living with that. She's still seeing the daily impact that Daniel's challenges have on him and the daily impact that they have on our family. But she has been able to learn with me and been able to apply that in her relationship with Daniel.

 

Jess:

And I think because obviously for me growing up and going through school, obviously there was a lack of awareness and I know that none of, even the PSHE or whatever it's called now, none of those lessons, we would just cover drugs, alcohol, but nothing about what your other peers might be facing. But the actual neurological side rather than the just like, Oh, things you'll do with your friends on the weekend. The things that would actually affect their life and that would cause a change. So, I've done GCSEs and A levels and going through both of them, I know that I can clearly see how it's an unfair system for people who have more complex needs and how you have to be that perfect person to be able to go through smoothly with no issues. And that's really rare. I know when I was going through it, obviously all my friends have... Everyone has their own difficulties. And even though it might not be because you have ADHD or autism or dyslexia, it's just that because it's an unfair system, everyone has their different ways of learning and it's not accommodated as it is.

And I think learning more about Sanity School and obviously setting up Complex Connexions, I think with the connection with Daniel, it allowed me to make it a lot stronger because I could talk to him, I understand as to why he might be coming with a response like that or might be acting a certain way. And it just made a lot more sense in my head. And I know once I've started being more involved with this, I know for a fact that people around me, when I started to talk to them more about it, they've gone, I deal with problems like that, but they just haven't been diagnosed. And so they've never, just never been something that they've had to deal with through their school life officially. However, it's always been in the background. And then they've come to a point now where they can say, yes, that is why I didn't get to pass my A levels first time or that is why I really struggled with doing GCSEs and that's why the school wasn't right for me. And I think that that's so important and the awareness of all the different complex needs, so it's just vital. I think it's a necessary thing that everyone should know but they just don't.

James:

Yeah, and if it doesn't, if it hasn't existed up until now and there's not really the awareness, it's almost if you don't know about something or neurodiversity and there's nothing being promoted about it or there are no solutions as to how can I learn more? Then it's almost, we've just been sort of swimming through the fog, so to speak. Strange analogy. But now, if there's an element of, we're hearing more and more in the world for the workplace, for school environments for families then having a resource to go to, if somebody is feeling I suppose isolated as a parent or as a sibling or in the workplace for example, managers think I'm not quite sure what to do about getting the best out of a certain employee. So it sounds like, who would you say Complex Connexions is for?

Shelley:

They specifically say there's a Complex Connexions for parents and there's a Complex Connexions for teachers and it's a very, very similar course. Obviously just the wording and obviously some of the focus is slightly different because one of them is aimed at parents and one of them is aimed at teachers. But I honestly believe that you could use exactly the same principles from Sanity School and you could create awareness among any group of people. If you had to take that same programme and teach it to a group of managers in a company, if you had to take that same programme and teach it to the general public, if you had to teach those same principles to a group of siblings that have experienced neurodiversity in their family, it would be equally applicable to them. There'll be certain things that will change slightly, but the basic principles of, because sanity school is very much a case of meet the child where they are. So, adjust your own expectations and alter your own, sort of ideas of what that child should be doing.

 

So, it's very much a case of losing the judgment and very much a case of focusing on where the child is, what their strengths are, and meeting them where they are. And really you're taking on the responsibility of altering your perspective and coming at things from a different viewpoint. You're not expecting the child to change their behaviour. You're changing your expectations and your response to that behaviour. And I think it's such a such a true thing is that if you look at things from a different viewpoint, your response is going to be different. So if you can alter your own response, then you will understand their behaviour a lot more, and as soon as you respond to them in a different way, they'll respond back to you in a different way. So it changes the dynamics within your own relationship, but it also filters out into the family, into the school, into every part of society. Then you know that that would filter out and in the process if you can assume the best intention from your child and that kind of thing, that's building their self-esteem and then that has a huge ripple effect as well.

So all those tiny tweaks and changes are going to have an effect somewhere along the line. And like I said, it's not a magic wand where you're going to be able to, we're all human. So as a parent you're not always going to do things in the correct way. You are going to be impatient at times but that is part of the programme as well. You understand that. You are not always going to respond in the right way. Your child's not always going to respond in the right way. And it's a journey of making those adjustments from your point of view and thereby adjusting things for the whole family. And I think one of the really important parts about it is forming a strong connection because there's that belief that without that strong bond and that significant relationship, you can't really work from there. So it's very much focused on building that strong relationship. And I think Jessica has noticed that as well in her relationship with Daniel.

Jess:

Yeah, I think growing up as a sibling of a brother who has ADHD, when he was undiagnosed it was just normal the behaviour that I was seeing, the disruption within the household. It was just something I'd always experienced. And I didn't realise until I got older that there was a reason for it. And that it wasn't just a naughty behaviour. And then when I was able to be educated on it, then I could adapt. But before then I was just completely oblivious and I suppose being a sibling as well, there was times where I was like, Oh, I'm not going to say if I have a problem with something because I don't want to disrupt it further and I don't want to take the attention away from him if he needs help. And that kind of thing. So I suppose there's always going to be that kind of difficulty because it will depend on person to person. But in general, I suppose if there was the overall educated, if it was given to siblings as well, then they would be able to understand from a young age all the way as they're growing up. Because it could be for a long, long time of their life, obviously, depending on when the sibling's born that they're having to deal with this day in and day out. And I suppose, it doesn't depend on each person, it's how much it affects them. But yeah.

Shelley:

And I think your relationship has become so much more positive with Daniel, hasn't it since you've had that understanding? I think probably Daniel's most positive connection is probably with Jessica. And that's so important to him is what Jessica thinks of things and how Jessica would do things and how would Jessica do it and he'll take that on board because that is a really, really important relationship. And all credit to her that she has managed to adjust her perspective and not see him as just the naughty little brother and she will make time to make sure that she works with him on certain things and has definitely made it a very positive connection for him.

Jess:

I suppose. Because a lot of school is 90% of his life at the moment as he's in year 10. So doing GCSEs next year and starting to learn a lot of content for the GCSEs. And I remember when I was doing my GCSEs it's a big thing, it's a big step and a big change in your life. Obviously adapting to do 10 subjects to learn all this content that you know you're never going to actually need in your life. There is random like math problems and he's like, I'm never going to use this. I'm saying, I know you're not, but you just need to just for this next year. It's just what you've got to do. And I think because now I understand more about how he's feeling and what's going on inside his brain because when I'm like helping him with maths, or with physics, or with biology, I can adapt the way I'm helping him and teaching him to make it so he understands better because I know how the exam might ask the questions. I can frame it in a different way that's best for him to understand it or maybe even just explaining the questions out loud. So it allows him to process it a bit better rather than just leaving him to read it on his own. Like, even that small difference, I can see how much that helps him and how much that's going to be of benefit to him later on when he's actually having to do the exams. So it's just the tiny things like that, which I feel that just because I've learned more about it, hopefully they're going to have a good impact on him and on his future.

Michelle:

Is there anything else we need to talk about?

Shelley:

Oh, one thing I would like to say is talking a bit more about self care because I think often parents and possibly teachers as well, self care comes quite low down on their list and Sanity School is very much based around the fact that self care is an integral part of the programme. Without self care and without refuelling yourself and supporting yourself and doing things that build you up, you don't have the motivation and the ability to help your child to the best that you can. So I think self care is a really vital part of it. And I think all the positive principles that you apply to your child, the non-judgment and the positivity and the assuming best intention, you need to apply those to yourself as well in order to look after yourself and help yourself be the best parent that you can be.

James:

Good. So, I was thinking for our last question, it's a bit trickier. So we're going to have two last questions. So to you Shelley if we took you back to your 18 year old self, what advice would you give her. And to Jess, as it's not that long ago...the difference there is if you could go back to your younger self a few years ago with what you've learned about ADHD, self care, accommodating others, what your advice would be to your younger self.

Shelley:

Is that Jessica first?

James:

Whoever wants to go first.

Shelley:

I'll go first. I've had a think about it. The advice that I would give my 18 year old self is don't see failures as failures. See them as learning experiences. And try to understand how those learning experiences shape you into who you are and shape your life for what it's going to be. Another thing I would tell myself is don't judge a person by what you see on the outside because there's always a backstory. Be it a parent, be it a child, be it any person. There's always something going on in the background. And I do feel that before I had a good understanding, I could be quite a judgemental person. And I would like to think that I would say to myself, you know, try and lose that judgment and try and see beyond the behaviour. Try and see what's going on in that person's head or what they've been through. And I know as a human being, we all jump to conclusions all the time, but I think if we can be more aware of that and try not to just judge by the behaviour that we see, if we can always think beyond that, I think that will stand us in good stead.

Jess:

I think for me, it would be a lot of that, what Mum just said with not judging a book by its cover basically. And obviously going through school, there's so many different people you meet obviously being in a year group of 300 people. You have such a wide range of personalities and just everyone is different. And then if I knew what I know now, I would definitely make more of an effort to try and understand people better even if I didn't know them and just think more about what could actually be going on. And then if I had to partner up with them or something just to try and think a bit more outside of the box of how else might they be struggling and how can I help them in ways that other people might not need the same help.

 

But from what I can see, how can I help them to even just do a bit better that day and just to feel a little bit better about themselves by them knowing that someone else is able to understand how they feel. Because obviously that brings it back to the isolation part about how a lot of the people will feel isolated because they feel as though, because there might only be, say one person diagnosed in a class with ADHD, but there might be six others who feel a lot of the same traits. However, they don't have that diagnosis and therefore aren't specifically targeted with the extra help and support they ideally do need. However, if we can even just see the traits that they're showing and just act upon that and just try and make it a little bit easier for them and just to make their day a bit better.

Michelle:

Awesome.

James:

Very good advice.

Michelle:

So if somebody thinks, Ooh, I like the sound of this, what's the best way to get in touch?

Shelley:

We've got a Facebook page, which is Complex Connexions with an X. On Twitter, we are @complexconnex with an X at the end. Otherwise, my email is probably the best one, which is shelly@complexconnexions.co.uk.

Michelle:

Awesome.

James:

Brilliant.

Michelle:

Thank you ever so much for speaking to us today.

Jess:

Thank you.

Shelley:

Thank you very much.

James:

Oh. And we're going to, you'll have to look out for the selfie or the Zoomie midweek of what we thought was either a dinosaur or a giraffe in the back garden.

Shelley:

I look forward to it.

James:

Thank you both.

All:

Thank you.